cover image I’m Always So Serious

I’m Always So Serious

Karisma Price. Sarabande, $16.95 trade paper (92p) ISBN 978-1-956046-04-5

The striking debut from Price meditates on Blackness, racial history, family lineage, and grief in poems centered in New Orleans and New York City. Multiple poems address New Orleans’ rhythm and blues keyboardist James Booker: in “James Booker Speaks to Ringo Starr About His Bodyguard Taking His Eye,” the speaker asks, “Show me/ how you fight and I’ll/ show you how to possess/ Chopin and turn him/ into something darker/ than his own shadow./ Little Lazarus, why wasn’t it you/ who yanked the song/ out of me? I blessed/ the bloody knuckle/ with the percussion/ you could not make.” “We Wear Each Other’s Names after reading If Beale Street Could Talk and The Odyssey” inventively recasts characters of both works, as in “III. Tish recast as Penelope”: “I say I live in a shushing (a woman waiting while a hero is out). Can you tell me it doesn’t hurt to live here? Can you return to (for) me, silence me out of witnessing my selves: unmistakably American (I stab the onions), I wash a boy’s hair in a warehouse fashioned into love, sleep (I never do this).” This formally innovative collection rewards readers with its memorable and incisive reflections. (Feb.)